It is not our modus operandi to proclaim, “The sky is falling” in terms of Maritime Security...it’s a poor sales model very much akin to the boy who cried “Wolf” on a regular basis. But there are a few intellectual table scraps that are worth chewing over in the small watches of the night, particularly for yacht owners, most of whom are roughly in my age bracket.
Once upon a time, the opposition had a name (the USSR), an address, (C/O the Kremlin) and a telephone line maintained 24/7/365 which, according to legend, had a red handset at each end. And although we all lived in the shadow of the madness of nuclear Mutually Assured Destruction, this was offset by the premise that there were thinking human beings, regardless of political bent, on each end who gave long pause before they started pushing launch code buttons.
The other fable I remember is that the third world was still third. I was running amuck in Burma in the early 80’s and never witnessed a monk shot in the street by the government. My first trip to East Africa, earlier still, entails wonderful memories of pastoral nomads, beautiful beaches, and a Somali/Kenya border which then suffered from the occasional cattle rustler and not much more.
And for every reader who pines for simpler times of earlier years, where peace and tranquility were (more or less) the order of the day in terms of yachting, I have but one short phrase for you.
Stop dreaming and start living.
It’s gone, it will probably never be back, and the high seas will become a harsher place, mirroring the parallels occurring on the terrestrial portion of the planet.
The opposition you will meet one day may well be driven by religious fervor, and not amenable to ransom, negotiation or common sense. Nor will they have a name, an address, or a phone number. They may perhaps be the victims of growing economic inequality, host nation corruption, lack of education, and limited hope of a better future.
And those who have little to lose make for the most dangerous opponents. And if they hail from the failed Arab world, driven by religious zeal, you had better keep the powder dry because all the praying in the world isn’t going to help you because your God is the all consuming enemy.
And they will be, (thank you East Bloc) formidably armed with assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, and the willingness to use them. For one cannot be held for murder if there is no working judiciary system in the country to try them. The third world may still be somewhat third, but no longer in terms of military weaponry and compunction (or lack thereof) when it comes to pulling the trigger.
Welcome to the Brave New World. A Brave New World where captured pilots are burned alive in cages, where 20 something female aid workers are kidnapped and killed for trying to help the innocent, and the color orange, once reserved for Halloween, now represents a pending beheading beamed live worldwide via the internet.
Having spent time in Iraq (1991, 2003,2004, 2006, and 2007) along with a year in Northern Kenya (2008) and Afghanistan (2010) in addition to happy sojourns in North Africa since, I am doubtless prone to exaggeration so the reader will say.
My riposte would be go talk to any combat vet, from any nation, who actually had boots on the ground for more than a few days. The honest ones are going to go very quiet and tell you they don’t really want to talk about what Al-Queda and ISIL are capable of. Mostly because it beggars description and, after bearing witness to the tactics and resulting carnage in terms of outrage against the human body, words become superfluous.
Had our organization ever encountered a situation in extremis we would all have fought like lions to the last bullet or the last hand grenade…..save one. Far better a quick deliverance via our own hand than a lingering one via theirs.
So with that in mind, I routinely interact with truly warm, compassionate Captains who care greatly about their crew and passengers. Faultless human beings who are far less jaded and cynical than I.
The same Captains who are utterly convinced that a rubber dummy with a toy gun stationed on a visible platform will keep all evil at bay. Because nothing has happened to date. Who tell me it isn’t really THAT bad out there. And I concur; it hasn’t been that bad for them because it has never actually HAPPENED to them. And I pray that it never does.
There is never a problem selling security services to those who have been attacked. If anything, the pendulum swings too far the other way, and these yachts carry enough firepower to overpower a medium sized naval frigate.
It’s always easy to tell, because these are the vessels that take security seriously. For once the “it can’t happen to me” mindset is breached, life never quite returns to the status quo hereafter. Not a bad thing as it increases your life expectancy.
Common sense, which is not always the most common of senses in either the yachting or security industries, plainly dictates that the world, in terms of a bar graph, is going down and to the right. That part is pretty obvious.
The part that isn’t is what you/I/we are going to do about it. I am not suggesting you should turn your yacht into a battleship. I am saying it might be time to have a ‘common sense’ discussion and implement a few prudent precautions.
Or you can maintain the status quo, do nothing, and hope it doesn’t happen to you. And we all know what hope is. That’s the only thing remaining in Pandora’s box after all threats have escaped to inflict misery on the world.
Only this time hope won’t work, because if you find yourself in an orange jump suit, you won’t have any.
*Image credits: Flickr/James Vaughan Flickr/Keith Bacongo Flickr/Enno Lenze CC2.0
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